Monday, April 2, 2012

Cooking something new: Salsify!

Doesn't that look gnarly? If I dug that up in my backyard, I definitely wouldn't think to eat it. Lucky for me, I found it through other means.

Salsify! It sounds more like a verb than a vegetable. It sounds to me like the act of dancing the salsa. Salsify! In fact, I can't even seem to write it without an exclamation point.

I was scanning the seed catalog and few weeks ago and saw this root described as tasting a bit like artichoke, but looking nothing like one of my favorite foods. I was very intrigue. But, I haven't expanded my garden enough to grow all the vegetables I know I want, so I wasn't going to try growing something no one has ever heard of. Besides hubby doesn't even like artichokes.

Jump forward a few weeks ... Lo, and behold, KFF has been growing the stuff. So, what was the first vegetable I picked up at the farmers market on Saturday? You guessed it.

Nah, I didn't think it was necessary to tell hubby it's supposed to taste like artichokes. Let him decide that on his own.

I chose a cheesy recipe that I thought might win over both my boys. Here's the recipe I started with: Rich and Creamy Salsify Gratin. But, as I get older, I become less inclined to follow directions. So, here's what I did.

I started off doing what they told me to. I peeled the salsify and kept it in cold water to prevent it from turning brown.

Then, I sliced it with my mandolin into 1/4-inch, or thinner, slices. As I worked, I kept the salsify in the cold water as much as possible.

Do keep it in the water. I noticed that as I was slicing it was turning brown.

(Here's the one slightly unpleasant thing about this vegetable. As I was peeling it, some funky, brown stuff came off onto my hands. It reminded my of pulling certain weeds that leave unpleasant junk on my hands, if I start pulling without gloves. This is not something that would stop me from prepare salsify in the future, but I thought I'd mention it.)

Once everything was peeled and sliced, I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan, then mixed in a tablespoon of flour to make a roux. Then, added about 1 1/2 cups of whole milk, plus salt, black pepper and a bit of freshly ground nutmeg.

As the milk started to thicken, I stirred in my salsify and let it cook until it was tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

That got transferred to a casserole dish with some cheese sprinkled on top. I used a bit less than a 1/2 cup of a mixture of Gruyère and Monterrey Jack. The casserole went in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, then under the broiler for 5 minutes to slightly brown the cheese.

In the excitement to eat dinner, I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. But, you can imagine it looked very much like cheesy scalloped potatoes would look coming out of the oven. 

The results: YUM! 
Well, those in my house who like artichokes thought it was delicious. Hubby turned up his nose a bit, and then wasn't pleased with me once I shared the description. He wasn't fooled.

It did taste quite like artichokes. 

So, as long as you like artichokes, give SALSIFY! a try. (And, just try to say that word without an exclamation.)

Cheesy salsify! gratin
1 to 1 1/2 pounds salsify, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup (or less) Gruyère cheese
1/4 cup (or less) Monterrey Jack cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Start by getting a bowl of cold water handy. Peel salsify and place in cold water as you work to prevent browning. Thinly slice roots into about 1/4-inch pieces, continuing to keep any of the root you're not working with in the water.
In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter, then stir in flour. Add milk to make a roux. Once the milk begins to thicken, add salsify, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer until salsify is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer to casserole dish and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Then, move under the broiler for about 5 minutes to lightly brown the cheese. Serves 4.

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